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US TV Recap

'Homeland' recap: Brody and Carrie get closer in 'The Clearing'

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Season 2, episode 7 | Aired Thursday, Nov 15 2012 at 15:37 GMT on Channel 4

While it was in some respects the nearest thing we've had to a filler episode this season, 'The Clearing' was a much more emotionally cohesive hour than last week's, and resolved a couple of elements that felt off in that episode.

Dana and Finn's hit-and run-plotline finally tied in with the parts of the show we actually care about (only took them six weeks), while Carrie and Brody's power dynamic shifted yet again, and a loose end from last season - Saul's naïve young terrorist charge Aileen - was reintroduced to very moving effect.

Homeland S02E07: 'The Clearing'

© Showtime



It's become hard to root for Brody at times, but there were two revealing moments this week that showed a level of self-awareness and remorse we haven't seen from him before. His conversation with fellow veteran Rex Henning showed just how much self-disgust he's harbouring, and just how hard it is for him to stomach being called a war hero. And in the car with Jess, his description of Tom Walker was plainly a veiled confession about his own broken psyche: "He just went through too many things, and he couldn't get right again."

That being said, we're not sure why Brody is acting so entitled about his double agent gig. He's not doing the CIA a favour by working for them - the only other option he had involved a prison sentence and potentially an electric chair. It makes sense that he's frustrated and feels trapped and exploited by the situation, but his constant tetchiness is getting slightly old.

But Carrie and Brody's relationship continues to fascinate in its unhealthy, manipulative, magnetic way. Her going to see him in the woods wasn't a sweeping romantic gesture, but a ploy in response to Quinn's instructions: give Brody some empowerment, make him feel in control of something.

Homeland S02E07: 'The Clearing'

© Showtime



And Brody knew right from the get-go that he was being played, and mostly he didn't care. There was something odd about the way the scene plays out - he's blissful and passionate with Carrie one moment, and practically shooting fireballs out of his eyes at her the next - and yet it works for this relationship, which is so simultaneously honest and deceptive, so painfully truthful and so fraught with distrust.

The setting, too, was beautiful and recalled the brief respite Carrie and Brody found in each other last season, during their cabin getaway in 'The Weekend'. There's just something about these two and the great outdoors, apparently.

Carrie's scene with Mike was interesting not only because it allowed Carrie to be badass and competent again, but also because they both essentially want the same thing. If this were a sitcom, the pair of them would team up to destroy the Brodys' marriage, but a hilarious series of mishaps would result in the Brodys becoming closer than ever, and then Carrie and Mike would bicker for half a season about whose fault it was that their plan failed before ultimately getting together themselves. On balance, it's good that Homeland isn't a sitcom.

Elsewhere, poor Saul took a leaf out of Carrie's book, allowing his emotional investment in an asset to cloud his judgement. The asset in this case was Aileen, who managed to look even thinner and more sickly than she already did before - solitary confinement in a maximum security prison will do that to you, we hear.

She was always a profoundly sad character, clearly very young and very confused and never genuinely committed to Al Qaeda, and it was refreshing to see a nuanced look at the realities of how the US justice system deals with terrorists - the show hasn't seemed so interested in the topical resonance of its subject matter since the middle of season one.

Homeland S02E07: 'The Clearing'

© Showtime



And though Aileen's suicide reeked slightly of plot contrivance (the guard removed every single object from the cell but happened to leave Saul's spare glasses?), Mandy Patinkin sold the hell out of that emotional climax. If this doesn't earn him an Emmy nomination next year, we'll have no choice but to assume a grander anti-Patinkin conspiracy.

Now, was it just us or did anybody else keep expecting something terrible to happen to Finn? The way he kept saying vaguely ambiguous things like "Let me pick my moment", along with Timothée Chalamet's twitchy, unbalanced energy really gave us the impression that he was going to blow his brains out in the middle of the fundraiser. Something just isn't right with the kid.

Speaking of reading ominous things into seemingly benign moments, Walden and his wife seem altogether scarier this week than we ever realised. When Walden said that Jess "needs to not talk at all", it really sounded like Cynthia was seconds away from replying, "She needs to be... dealt with." Maybe we were just feeling on edge this week. In summary, the Waldens are basically a very, very creepy family.

Final thoughts:

- Brody's bond with Henning was compelling for several reasons, not least because he's the only character in the entire show who calls Brody by his first name! It will never stop being weird to us that even his wife doesn't call him Nick.
- Are Carrie and Quinn going to have a thing? It's been telegraphed from day one, and him casually stripping in front of her was an unambiguously charged moment, complete with his patented chivalry and charm: "Like you've never seen a dick before." That said, it's hard to imagine Carrie having eyes for anyone but Brody for the forseeable future.
- Saul bringing Aileen bread, cheese and wine was maybe the sweetest thing we've ever seen on this show. What a prince.
- Roya says that "things are going to move very quickly now", but there's still been nothing in the way of actual development regarding the terrorist plot, and there are only five episodes to go. After the breathlessly-paced first five instalments, things now don't really seem to be moving very quickly at all.
- Morgan Saylor's emo mannerisms - lip-biting, monotone mumbling, zero eye contact - are getting out of control. She's done really good work on the show in the past, but maybe as a consequence of the problematic writing for her this season, she's becoming less and less convincing. Cut your hair, pull your shoulders back and enunciate, woman.
- Brody wordlessly putting that aggressively tactless guest in her place with the sight of his scars was another standout character moment for him. There's so much untapped rage constantly simmering just beneath the surface with him.
- "Cease and f**king desist." Love you, Carrie. You still suck, Mike.

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